Contamination a worry

To the Journal editor:

Thanks to 120-plus people at the Dec. 4 Michigan Department of Natural Resources Marquette public meeting who questioned, commented and/or opposed Highland Copper/UPX, Inc.’s request to lease 2,500 acres of DNR-owned sub-surface mineral rights in Marquette County for exploratory drilling for sulfide ore (copper, zinc, nickel, gold).

Homeowners’ concerns included: decrease in property value from drilling and/or mining under their land, compensation for damage to their property, oversight and monitoring to prevent damage including pollution/depletion of well water.

Some suggested DNR should offer right of first refusal to lease before even considering leasing to a mining company. Others said pristine hunting and recreational areas where DNR also owned the surface land would be spoiled or lost to public use altogether.

Some, including a local physician, expressed alarm that DNR was ignoring serious public health risks of increasing mercury poisoning from by-products of sulfide ore mining.

One person gave the DNR panel copies of scientific research by Dr. W. Charles Kerfoot of Michigan Tech., “Mining legacy across a wetland landscape: high mercury in Upper Peninsula (Michigan)lakes and fish” Jnl. Env. Sci: Processes Impacts, 2018, 20,708, which shows that sulfide ore mining accounts for 63 percent of all mercury in the Lake Superior watershed, that the abundance of wetlands (29 percent of U.P.) makes it the worst place for sulfide ore mining because sulfide residue interacts with wetland organisms and mercury to produce poisonous methyl mercury which then enters the food chain of U.P. game fish, with high mercury levels in fish near mining sites decades after operations stop, levels which are presently increasing by a factor of 1 to 2 percent; (DNR’s “Eat Safe Fish Guides” 2010- 18 increasingly warn of eating too much mercury laden fish); and the scientists conclude that this poses a serious risk to human health!

We know mercury poisoning causes irreversible brain damage in unborn babies and young children and neurological disorders in adults. Our DNR now has the opportunity and responsibility as gatekeepers and guardians of the public trust to close the gate on further poisoning of our water and to protect our children and their children’s children by denying the sulfide ore mining leases requested by Highland Copper/UPX, Inc.

Fellow citizens wishing to follow up on the issues presented at the DNR meeting, or to give input on additional issues, please go to http://bit.ly/Reform-Mineral-Rights.

Dennis Ferraro

Marquette